The idea of “happily ever after” was not introduced to predict or guide professional satisfaction. But dismissing fairytale endings has hardly spared us from imagining dream jobs or wishing for fantastic careers.
Those of us fortunate enough to have professional choices chart our careers according to what we predict will make us happy. We use the metric of happiness to make countless decisions about our careers . . . only to end up less happy than we imagined, wondering if it’s possible to achieve and sustain joy at work.
Happiness can seem so elusive that it feels at once like a naïve pursuit and a superfluous achievement. On one hand it seems like too much to aim for, and on the other, too little.
But maybe it’s how we pursue happiness that falls short.
I work with lots of professionals who seek coaching because they aren’t happy. Their situations, of course, are all unique. And how they choose to address them, even more so. But here are five ways I’ve seen people find more happiness at work.
Find and feed your why
If you’ve watched Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk, you know that discovering and expressing your why is key to inspiring yourself and others. Being clear on why you work in a particular field or for a certain organization—or maybe why you work at all–helps you connect your passion and purpose to daily responsibilities that may not feel enjoyable.
Make a friend
Workplace friendships have been shown to be such a powerful indicator of job satisfaction that “Do you have a best friend at work?” is one of the 12 questions Gallup uses to measure employee engagement. Making time for friendship can make work more enjoyable, as well as increase your performance.
Develop productive habits
Working smarter leads to higher productivity and frees up discretionary time. If prioritizing and planning don’t sound happiness inducing, consider the feeling of finishing your to-do list or starting a project you love. Look at your existing habits and figure out where you could be more productive. (Here’s one tip: On days when you’re glued to your computer, take at least two breaks.)
Practice self care
The way we treat ourselves outside of work translates to how we feel at work. Choosing activities that foster creativity, self-expression, connection, or relaxation replenish some of the energy you spend on work. Likewise, healthy nutrition, exercise, and sleep increase your capacity for creativity, focus, and resilience.
Let’s be honest: sometimes the situation, people, or organizations are not the right fit. Having the courage to admit something isn’t working for you might be the most important step you can take toward happier working and living.
Finding joy at work isn’t about covering problems with a veneer of rainbows and unicorns. It’s about honestly examining reality, changing our behavior for our own benefit, and maybe smiling along the way.